Spain’s Commitment to Responsible Fisheries and Sustainable Development – Román Oyarzun Marchesi

On June 5, 2016, the Port State Measures Agreement came into force, providing the international community with a valuable mechanism to combat illegal fishing and pursue the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Government of Spain is an advocate for responsible fisheries policies, including its international engagement through the United Nations, maintenance of its own Vessel Monitoring System and sharing best practices. To further examine Spain’s role in combating international Illegal, Unreported and Undocumented (IUU) fishing and promoting sustainable development in the Pacific, Genevieve Neilson, Pacific Island Security Scholar, interviews Ambassador Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Román Oyarzun Marchesi.

In October 2015, Spain hosted a celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The event goal was to “foster a debate on the need to adopt a future strategy that would guarantee the sustainability of fisheries.” Yet recently in February 2016, the United States added momentum to global efforts targeting illegal fishing by ratifying the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Why are the Code of Conduct and the Port States agreement important to Spain? What are the next steps for these agreements?

Ending with the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Undocumented fishing is a priority for the Government of Spain. Its adverse impacts on the conservation and management of fishery resources are unacceptable. Moreover, it represents an unfair competition of those operators that do not follow the rules. This is why already in 2002, Spain was one of the first countries to pass its National Action Plan against the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, within the framework established one year before by the FAO.

The fight against IUU requires a joint effort among all actors involved. Those who work outside the law do not respect borders neither national efforts to combat their activities, therefore they have to be confronted with all means at our disposal.

In this regard, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has supposed an unprecedented boost for the sustainability of the fisheries and indeed, we are proud to have hosted in Vigo, Spain, its 20th anniversary. It is the recognition of the global community of the good practices and prestige of the Spanish sector.

The strength of this Code of Conduct is that it comes after the consensus among Member States, Intergovernmental Organization, Private Sector and specialized non-governmental Organizations. Despite the fact that this is not legally binding, it is deemed an effective and indispensable tool to ensure the contribution of sustainable fisheries to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security or creation of jobs among many other benefits.

We welcome the recent entry into force of the Port State Agreement. It is the first binding international treaty focused specifically on illicit fishing and constitutes a milestone in the fight against IUU.

What has Spain learned over the last two decades with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries that it can share with the United States regarding sustainable fisheries?

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has proved itself an essential tool to increase the awareness of Member States on the need to ensure availability of resources for present and future generations. It stresses the importance of applying a precautionary approach in conservation, management and exploitation of living resources of the sea in order to protect and preserve the aquatic environment. It also foster the cooperation between all parties at all levels including sub-regional, regional and global level. Furthermore, it contributes to the promotion and planning of responsible fisheries, and to have a legal and institutional framework that encourage all necessary measures regarding the conservation and the long-term sustainable use of fisheries resources, based on the most accurate scientific data available.

Spain cooperates closely with United States in various working groups at the United Nations and within Regional Fishing Organizations. When it comes to sustainable fisheries, we share same objectives and we know that only if we manage to join our efforts we will be able to succeed in this endeavor.

Following on from its fisheries policies, how does Spain manage its own national fishing fleet to ensure it has “the highest standards of monitoring and compliance in the world”? In what ways does Spain cooperate with international actors to maintain high standards?

Spain was the first Member State of the European Union to put in place a system of verification of private licenses. The largest number of countries adopting this system, the most effective tool will it be. Our country is also a pioneer when it comes to initiate infringement procedures to nationals enlisted in third country vessels, which are included in IUU lists. We work towards avoiding any space for impunity to those companies related directly or indirectly with vessels identified for its activities of IUU Fishing. Those measures are also accompanied by strict monitoring of imports control in order to ensure that the catch, regardless its origin has been obtain observing all rules applicable.

Our fishing activity is based on the best scientific knowledge available; this management ensure[s] the best efficiency in the use of the resources in the long term and guarantee[s] the strict enforcement of the control standards.

In this regard, it is necessary to highlight our Vessel Monitoring System. Through this state of the art mechanism, Spain has real time information on the location of its vessels, 24 hours a day. Together with the Electronic Reporting System that notifies its activity on a daily basis, constitutes the cornerstone of our control scheme.

Spain actively cooperates and shares its knowledge with other Member States and International organizations. Many of them come to our country to learn about our Monitoring System. On the multilateral scene, we support both technically and financially the Global Record of Fishing Vessels launched by the FAO.

In September 2014 and in collaboration with Italy, Luxembourg and Austria, Spain signed memorandums of understanding with Pacific Small Island Developing States to support cooperation projects funded by Spain and the UNDP Fund. These projects are aimed at attaining sustainable development goals. The countries engaged in MOUs with Spain include Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. What are some of your most valued or successful programs with these SIDs countries? For Spain, how has the signing of the MOU opened up avenues to promote Spanish foreign policy in the Pacific?

The signing of the MOU was a strong signal on our side that we consider our relations with the PSIDS as strategic and geared towards the long-term. Spain has a long history in the Pacific, dating back to the XV century, but it is true that since the late XIX century our presence in the region had waned. With the negotiating and signing of the MOU we wanted to signal that we are back…and we are back to stay. For that reason, we have devised some instruments to channel our renewed interest in the region. One, as said, is our participation in the MOU led by Italy, where Spain is contributing with 1 million US $. The countries that are at the moment benefiting from the Spanish contribution are Micronesia, Tonga and Vanuatu. Spain also opened up our recently created SDG Fund to projects presented by the PSIDS. Actually, three countries from the region- Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa- are already benefiting from financing from the SDG Fund aimed at fostering the participation of youth in sustainable economic activities.

Most of Spain’s engagements with Pacific Island leaders takes place through the United Nations in New York. How often do you engage with the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) caucus at the United Nations? What are the benefits of engaging with the PSIDS for Spain?

We see our relations with the PSIDS as mutually beneficial. We also care about climate change and pursue the same sustainable development goals, though we are also aware of their particular vulnerabilities. We also think that Spain´s experience in a number of areas, like renewable energies, can be valuable to the PSIDS. As a token of our good relations with the PSIDS and of Spain´s interest and engagement in matters that are of particular relevance to them, we actively participated in the process that led to the III UN Conference on SIDS held in Samoa in September, 2014. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation attended the Conference and co-chaired the Interactive Dialogue on Climate Change and Disaster´s Mitigation. Since then, we have strengthen[ed] our relationship by becoming members of the Post-Forum Dialogue. Our Secretary of State for Foreign Policy has attended the 45th and 46th session of the Pacific Island Forum held in Palau and Papua New Guinea respectively. This Forum constitutes a unique opportunity to exchange and reinforce our partnership with Pacific SIDS.

Jesus Garcia, Secretary of State for Development of Spain, said at the UNSC Open Debate last July that the post-2015 agenda encouraged the international community to acknowledge the inter-connectedness between security and sustainable development. What challenges to international peace does Spain seek to address that are posed by climate change?

Climate Change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. All countries, but particularly developing countries, are vulnerable and are already experiencing increased impacts including persistent drought and extreme weather events, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification, further threatening food security and efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.

We know that, in particular, it is a matter of survival for many Small Island States as well as the low-lying coastal territories of numerous States, which are currently facing serious threats of permanent inundation from sea-level rise.

Since it is a global threat, we consider appropriate to deal with these issues from an international perspective. In this sense, we have to explore all means at our disposal, including today’s discussion, on the possible role of the Security Council in its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

This is why last year, together with the Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations, we convened an Arria-formula meeting of the Security Council on the role of Climate Change as a threat multiplier for Global Security. The aim of the meeting was to better identify the inter-connected threats to international peace and security related to Climate Change.

Without prejudice to the responsibilities conferred upon the UN General Assembly regarding Sustainable Development and Climate Change, it is necessary to explore and utilize all existing means at our disposal, including further discussion on the possible role of the Security Council over these issues as part of its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. The empowering of a preventive approach and the improvement of the response capacity are essential aspects to confront the new threats to global security.


Román Oyarzun Marchesi

Román Oyarzun Marchesi has been Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations since January 2014. Until this appointment, Mr. Oyarzun served as Ambassador to Argentina since 2012, before which he was Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 2008 to 2012. He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Deusto University and a Master in International Relations from the Diplomatic School.

The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Erin Johnson via Flickr CC

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